Cause Marketing – A Smart Strategy for Your Practice

Ann M. Hoscheit, OD

Director of ECP Strategy

We’ve all been there…a patient asks you to sponsor the upcoming 5K and put your logo on the event t-shirt or place an ad in the yearbook or the homecoming program. Why do we say yes when we really want to say no?

What if we could say yes with a strategy that serves both the community and the practice? What if we could say yes knowing that we are actually implementing a strategic philosophy of business philanthropy? Yes, such a unicorn exists: It’s called “cause marketing”.

Cause marketing is when a for-profit business and a non-profit organization align for their mutual benefit. Some well-known examples include: Tom’s shoes (for every pair purchased, a pair goes to a needy child); Target (donates 5% of their profits back to the community); and Jet Blue’s campaign to provide children in low-income neighborhoods with free books. These strategic cause marketing partnerships are growing in numbers and in scope. In fact, cause marketing is expected to surpass the $2 billion mark in 2018. That’s a whole lot of alignment!

Research of companies engaged in cause marketing has identified key elements that bring value to the business. Doing good attracts people (both employees and patients) and it builds brand awareness and loyalty. It also boosts employee morale and may even provide an opportunity to broaden their skills sets, not to mention their lives.

For some, cause marketing may sound inauthentic or worse, like a ploy to get more business. That’s where intention comes in: at the core of the cause marketing strategy there must be an honest, heart-felt belief that the efforts have mutual benefit. Lack of authenticity is a formula for failure, so make sure your motivation is sincere.

According to Grant Garrison of GOODcorps, “If your company’s integral values are consistent with the causes you support, then supporting a cause isn’t a marketing tactic – it’s a brand characteristic…cause is just another component of the brand’s personality just like its utility or accessibility”. Elaine and Melia Lyerly of the Lyerly Agency in Belmont, NC, concur: “To give is to receive….and when a savvy business aligns with a non-profit to design a smart cause-marketing strategy, both parties reap the rewards”.

There are a few simple but critical steps required in the building of a successful cause marketing campaign, and they begin with the practice owner.

Step One: Ask yourself, “What is my philosophy on philanthropy?” If you believe that generosity is best shared privately, there is nothing wrong with that. But as small business owners, we have a unique opportunity to develop a strategy that builds our practices while also serving our community.

Step Two: Create a budget. What will the line item in your budget for philanthropy look like? A dollar amount? A Percentage of sales? Be clear on this, and stick to it.

Step Three: Research and identify the non-profit organization(s) with which you would like to work. My former practice – Summit Eye Associates — had a giving philosophy that included some basic guidelines. We would not write a check unless we were actively engaged in the non-profit’s mission. For us, that meant someone from the practice was on the board or was an active volunteer. Sometimes, it meant that the work of the non-profit directly impacted someone in our ‘family’. One example is that our billing coordinator’s son was in the armed services, so we sent holiday care packages overseas after encouraging patients to donate items. Another is that a patient’s infant son was diabetic and needed funds for a diabetic service dog. Everyone could get behind these efforts because they held meaning.

There are many ways for cause marketing efforts to resonate with your patients and employees. Check out Ann’s post, 4 Successful Examples of Cause Marketing to Inspire Your Practice, for ideas to create your own unique cause marketing strategy.


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